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Tag Archives: Conflict Resolution Cycle

On Needing to Write: My First NaNoWriMo

Tweet Last week I haunted you all with threats of the pending National Novel Writing Month, stating a little prematurely that “Next month, you’re going to write a novel.” I watched (and even commented on) your public reactions to that claim, and some of you were rightly terrified at the time investment looming oh-so-near. Others […]

On Story Structure: What is a Plot Point?

Tweet Yesterday I told a story about my rites of passage, about the moments in my life when I grew up. They were turning points in my personal history, and both of them significantly changed my plot. Today I want to tell you a little bit about the ways writers capture that slice of the […]

Act it Out (Creative Writing Exercise)

All this talk of document structure has me thinking back on some of my older projects. As I said in yesterday’s article, the series I’m working on now is highly structured — every book packed with three acts, five chapters per act, two scenes per chapter.

My older work isn’t really like that, though. My first effort at including any sort of structure in a story was King Jason’s War, and that was my fourth novel. I wonder what I’d find if I looked really closely at Taming Fire, or even The Poet Alexander….

The Three-Act Narrative

In that thought, I found my answer. The Ghost Targets series isn’t formula, it’s structured. Structure is a good thing. I still needed some comforting, though, so I found myself chasing down that path, thinking of all the creative document types that thrive under intensive structure. I said to myself, “What about haiku? What about sonnets?”

Satisfying Resolutions

Last week we talked about the Conflict Resolution Cycle, and the structure of a story.

So what’s missing? The end. Every story is a contractual agreement between the writer and the reader. Your readers give up their valuable time to read your story, and in exchange they expect you to give them a story — a satisfying beginning, middle, and end. That means you’ve got to do more than make interesting characters and conflict. You’re responsible for building a valuable conclusion, too.

The Big Event (Creative Writing Exercise)

The big event. Something happens, something bold and dramatic, to derail your protagonist’s life. That’s the impetus of every story, and it’s usually a lot of fun.

I’ve been haranguing you to get to your big events early. First page, I’m always saying, and first paragraph if you can manage it. So let’s practice. This week’s writing assignment is one to three pages (300-900 words), and in that space I want you to start a story. Give us a character, give us a glimpse — the barest hint — of what his or her life is like beforehand, and then mess it all up.


At some point, we’ve got to move the discussion from, “How do you make a really great sentence?” to “How do you make a really great story?” There’s lots of milestones along that path — descriptions of setting, descriptions of events, compelling dialogs, scenes, chapters, acts, it goes on and on. But before you can really make much progress on any of those intermediate things, you’ve got to understand your ultimate goal — you have to understand exactly what a story is.